Decorating the house (with pictures even)

We moved into this house in June.  Before that, we spent a few months living in an apartment in an adjacent town.  When my husband accepted his current job, we began looking for a house around here, but when the time came to move, we hadn’t found one yet, so we settled into that apartment and didn’t plan to stay long.

It was great: we only unpacked the essentials, and everything else went straight into storage, which was a little corner of the attic.  Each tenant got his own little corner of the attic.  We did keep the books in the apartment, so the attic air wouldn’t do weird things to them, but they stayed in their boxes.  Every week when I cleaned, I dusted bare shelves and cardboard boxes, and it was a breeze.  I loved it.  I thought to myself, “See?  We don’t even need all that stuff in the attic.  I don’t miss any of it.  Except the wrapping paper.  And the cake stand.  But that’s all.  Maybe Th. will forget about it when we move.”

It would have been the easiest drop-lifting experience of our lives.  I could even have labeled our stuff with someone else’s name.  “It says Smith.  Must belong to Smith in apartment 12.”

But we didn’t do that because it would have been irresponsible and dishonest.  And I do like my cake stand.

Green velvet cake on the cake stand. In the background, a nice spinach salad.

Anyway.  I really loved the bareness of that apartment.  It felt so clean and uncluttered, aside from the boxes.  Nothing on the shelves, no photos, no nothing, just the clock radio and the coasters and one throw for the couch.

When we moved into our house, I resisted decorating.  I couldn’t do anything with our bedroom because Th. was remodeling it, and we were going to stay in another room until he finished.  Certainly there was no point in decorating our temporary bedroom.  In fact, that room is too small for our headboard and foot board, so we just have the mattress on top of the box spring on top of the floor.  We left the headboard in the dining room and the foot board in the living room, and it doesn’t look too terrible.  But it means we can’t paint the living room and dining room until we move into our new bedroom because the head board and foot board are heavy, and we don’t want to move them any more than necessary.

This is not a decorating strategy.

Since we were going to paint the living room and dining room at some point (we already have the paint), it didn’t make sense to put out a bunch of knick-knacks only to put them away again.  I wasn’t even sure I liked my knick-knacks anymore.  I read a book that said too many women try to cover up decorating errors and indecision with a lot of knick-knacks, and that they should instead get the “bones” of the decorating scheme all worked out first.  So I couldn’t decorate before painting.  And I couldn’t paint until our bedroom was done.  And we couldn’t finish our bedroom as soon as we thought, for a variety of reasons.  So, no decorating.

I eventually put some books on the shelves in the dining room because Th. is a collector, and he likes to be able to see his books.  That’s okay.  But I didn’t put out anything else, not even on the mantle.  The mantle is kind of ugly, and there’s a big plastered spot on the wall above it, where the former owners mounted their flat-screen.  I thought, “Oh, that wall is so ugly.  If I put anything on the mantle, it will only draw attention to the ugly wall.”  So I left it alone.  It looked like a work in progress, but I thought, “Well, okay.  It is a work in progress.”

See the spot above the mantle? He is looking in the wrong place.

But then, last week, after I had cleaned the house, it still felt … unfinished.  Clean, but not pleasant.  I like it to feel extra nice and welcoming on Fridays, and I wasn’t feeling welcomed.  I plumped up the couch cushions, but the house still felt cold.

For a lack of any better ideas, I went down to the basement (the basement!  you know I have to be desperate to go down there!), opened the box of picture frames, and took some out.  I brought them upstairs.  I dusted them off.  And I put them on the mantle.  And you know what?

Do you know?

It looks amazing!  And we can see all our loved ones all the time!  There they all are!  I mean, you’ll have to take my word for it because I have no “after” pictures to show you.

It is a small thing, but it makes me so unreasonably happy.  I can’t believe how much time I spent without these faces on the mantle!  And I was arrogant about it too:  “I’m so detached and cool,” I thought, “I don’t even need pictures.  I’m not like ‘those women’ who have zillions of pictures in their houses.”

For goodness sake.  I didn’t know I was thinking this; I thought I was just being practical.  But since when is it better to be cool and detached?  And why am I condemning women who like their families?  I ought to be more like “those women,” since they obviously have souls, whereas I apparently do not.

We’re not painting the living room before spring, that much is clear.  And we’re not moving into the remodeled master bedroom any time soon either.  That’s all okay with me.  Th. is working hard, but he keeps getting side-tracked by more urgent projects.  We’ll get it done eventually.  But who says we can’t enjoy our house and look at our family members’ faces while we wait?

In another post, I will share how I “decorated” our temporary bedroom.  If I can get the camera working, you’ll even have some “after” pictures.  Prepare yourself.  This is what I started with.

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